“Carmen,” the 2023 Dance Movie, Rushes the Borders with Bombastic Banality

The luminescent cinematography within Benjamin Millepied’s peculiar adaptation of Prosper Mérimée’s novella Carmen (D) is inversely proportional to the film’s startling lack of competent plotting, passable dialogue, inspiring acting or cogent dance moves. Strangely, Millepied was the ballet choreographer behind Black Swan, and yet the movement aesthetic in this work flutters on the wobbly wings of a damp duck. Stunning Melissa Barrera in the title role as a woman on the run at the Mexican border and dashing Paul Mescal portraying a former Marine at a crossroads possess a staggering lack of chemistry. At the heart of what’s supposed to be a tragic romance, the acclaimed actor is particularly adrift and appears to wish he were elsewhere. There are some pretty poses afoot here but very little beneath the surface. Kudos to director of photography Jörg Widmer for finding an artful canvas within this wasteland, especially with Fellini-esque performer Rossy de Palma in a hint of a supporting part. Composer Nicholas Britell manages some grace notes with his original score, an alternate take on the story’s operatic roots. Ultimately this is a languid and joyless affair failing at both song and dance and social commentary. The only thing star crossed in this unsteady romance is its inability to transcend its own pretentiousness. 

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